The European subsidiary of Japanese business Mizkan and its building contractor, D H Welton, were sentenced by Stafford Crown Court last week after asbestos was disturbed during building work.
The food company failed to provide an asbestos survey before a factory wall was demolished to remove tanks from its former site in Burntwood in the West Midlands in July 2013.
D H Welton was also fined £45,000 for not commissioning a survey to check for the presence of asbestos, which causes cancer and lung disease, prior to demolition.
An asbestos insulation board at the top of the wall was “unknowingly broken up” during the work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which investigated the case.
Without protective clothing
Asbestos – at a glance
- Causes about 5,000 deaths a year
- About 20 tradesmen die each week due to past exposure
- Causes a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma
A factory worker, who was not involved in the construction work, raised the alarm after seeing someone gain access to asbestos cement sheets without protective clothing.
An asbestos removal contractor was then called in, inspected the site and found the asbestos in a skip full of demolition debris.
Mizkan Euro, headquartered in Chiswick High Road, London, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was ordered to pay legal costs of £13,589.
D H Welton, of Corn Street, Failsworth, Manchester, admitted to breaching the same act as well as control of asbestos regulations and must pay £4,529 in costs.
Stafford Crown Court handed down the sentences on Tuesday January 5 2016.
Acquired from Premier Foods
Mizkan had been carrying out the building work as part of its relocation to a factory near Manchester, which it acquired from Premier Foods in 2012.
The firm sold its Burntwood vinegar plant to address competition concerns after buying Premier Foods’s vinegar and sour pickles business including Sarson’s, Haywards and Dufrais brands.
In 2013 Premier Foods completed the sale of its sweet pickles and table sauces business – including the Branston brand and a factory in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk – to Mizkan.
Reaction from Mizkan
A Mizkan Euro spokesman said the firm accepted the verdict and “very much regrets” the incident which took place in July 2013.
“The company has noted the judge’s sentencing remarks, including his conclusion that the incident was ‘isolated’ and ‘not the result of systematic failure’,” he said.
“Mizkan is proud of its safety record, and has always considered the health and safety of its employees, visitors and contractors as of the utmost importance.”
He said the company would make sure it complied with strict regulations and safety standards related to asbestos as part of its focus on health and safety across the organisation.
Mizkan – at a glance
- Privately-owned Japanese business established in 1804
- Claims to be the world’s number one Sushi seasoning supplier
- Products include vinegar, seasoning, sauce and fermented soybeans